Africa-Press – Rwanda. The Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has warned the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) against flouting public procurement procedures, saying that the practice has been persistent for long in this institution and must be addressed.
A report by the Auditor General for the financial year 2019/20, on which the committee was deliberating Monday, September 13, indicated inefficiencies in the procurement process at RAB.
The report shows that during the financial year ended June 30, 2020, RAB disregarded the principles of efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and equity in awarding tenders worth over Rwf21.8 billion.
The reported irregularities, according to the audit, include among others, inadequate market surveys, improper technical and financial proposals, and sidelining the Internal Tender Committee in awarding some tenders.
According to the Auditor General, failure to conduct proper market survey led to significant unexplained variances of over Rwf1.2 billion between tenders whose estimated costs were Rwf3.3 billion reflected in the procurement plan and the related contract amounts of over Rwf2.5 billion.
A dairy contract signed without legal opinion
Acting in contravention of the law, on December 13, 2019, RAB signed the framework contract worth Rwf749 million with a contractor called SALTEL for the supply of dairy equipment and testing tools without seeking legal opinion from the Minister of Justice/Attorney General.
This, the report said, denies RAB to benefit from supervisory and advisory expertise, from the responsible Ministry in order to prevent any legal incidence that may affect the execution of the signed contract.
RAB procurement officer Valens Dusabe told PAC that though the tender price was over Rwf749 million, it was a framework contract whose unit price [for the items in question] was Rwf55 million. He explained it is that unit price that made them not send the contract to the Ministry of Justice as it was below the Rwf500 million threshold.
MPs disapproved of such explanations, arguing that practices like this imply mismanagement of public funds as they are not complying with the procurement legislation.
The Rwf274 million sweet potato vine tender issue
The audit noted that RAB signed contracts with two suppliers Jean Marie Vianney Habumuremyi and Serge Ganza for the supply of sweet potato vine cuttings in Kirehe, Karongi, and Nyagatare District. However, the report said that there was no evidence that the internal tender committee was involved in selection of the successful bidders.
The report showed that over Rwf274 million was paid for sweet potato vine cuttings during the year ended 30 June 2020, indicating that the contract duration was three months, with a price of Rwf10 per potato vine cutting.
This undermines the fundamental principles of accountability, transparency and fairness in awarding public tenders, according to the report. RAB Director General, Patrick Karangwa, said that the institution had a list of people who supply various seeds including maize, beans, Irish potatoes, and sweet potatoes, among others.
He said that the arrangement to award the tender to the two sweet potato vine suppliers was made in order to provide farmers with the needed farm input during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, MPs wondered whether other suppliers could not manage to supply such farm input just because of the Covid-19 pandemic, questioning how the tendering process was made to select the two suppliers.
“This issue should be investigated as a special case … a senior management of an institution does not replace its tender committee,” PAC Chairperson, Valens Muhakwa said, indicating that the tender committee’s advice was needed.
Technical studies, supervision awarded to same bidder
Contrary to the provision of article 90 of law N°62/2018 of 25/08/2018 governing public procurement, the report said, it was noted that tenders worth over Rwf2.1 billion for technical studies and supervisions works [for valley dam repair for irrigation in Eastern Province], were awarded to the same bidder.
This provision states that it is prohibited for a consultant who has been hired by a procuring entity to provide consulting services for the preparation or implementation of a tender or a company connected to the consultant shall not be allowed to bid for providing goods, works or consultant services related to that tender.
Awarding both tenders of studies and supervision, the report warned, may lead to conflict of interest. “Therefore, possible gaps in the feasibility studies may be hidden or may not be discovered when the feasibility studies have been done by the same company conducting the supervision of works,” it concluded.
MPs concurred with the Auditor General’s report on this, wanting to know what might be behind this practice. However, Karangwa told PAC that they thought they were doing the best thing to have the study and supervision of its implementation by another contractor, done by one entity.
“The person who carried out the study is the one in the best position to supervise that the works of the contractor [for dam construction] are being done according to the study,” he said.